Video surveillance going IP is a definite trend, but currently about 90 percent of the installed systems worldwide are still analog. Hybrid DVRs aim to bridge the existing systems with the latest technology, enabling users to enjoy the advantages of IP at a lower cost.
The latest technology is always attractive, but throwing away systems that still work is not an economical choice. Hybrid DVRs enable Web-based management of both analog and network cameras and allow for additional network cameras when needed.
"Hybrid DVRs were just a concept for system integrators back in 2008. However, in 2009, as IP is becoming more widespread, demand for hybrid solutions has increased," said Andy Chen, Project Leader at DynaColor.
Among the U.S., Europe and Asia, Europe and Asia are growing the fastest. "Demand for hybrid solutions is following the footsteps of network cameras. IP is popular in Europe, so the demand for hybrid systems is relatively high," said Grace Chang, Senior Sales Manager at AVerMedia Information. "Acceptance and migration to new technology are fast in the U.S. and Asia. This is also true of hybrid technology," said Vincent Chen, Assistant VP of Product Marketing at GeoVision.
Among Asian countries, China may be growing the fastest, said Junke Chan, Project Manager at Hikvision. "China has a large base of users with analog systems, so the potential to migrate to IP is huge," Chan said. However, as the prices for network cameras are still high, adoption is not as fast as Europe. "The market for hybrid systems has just started to grow in China. We are observing its trends and will act at the best time," said James Wang, Overseas PM at Dahua Technology.
Stand-Alone verses PC-based
PC-based hybrid DVRs can satisfy the needs of large installations, such as railways, highways and banks. "Larger-scale or project-based installations have a higher acceptance rate of hybrid DVR solutions," said Michael Lee, President at Hunt Electronics. SMB installations, such as chain stores and factories, can benefit from stand-alone hybrid DVRs.
Pug-and-play, easy installation with low equipment cost and electricity consumption is the key selling point for stand-alone hybrid DVRs. Remote monitoring and management allow users to receive real-time alerts and view footage via mobile devices.
For PC-based DVRs, the biggest selling point is powerful CPUs thatcan handle video analytics, such as people counting, different kinds of detection, tampering alarm and notifications. "The best thing about video analytics is that it gives a meaning to an image. With a hybrid solution, even an analog system can have that advantage," said Chen at GeoVision.
The lat e s t developments in stand-alone hybrid DVRs include intelligent video software, HD and megapixel compatibility, and digital PTZ and storage enhancements.
Motion detection, missing-object detection, alarm notification and designated search within video archives can be added to stand-alone hybrid DVRs. Both stand-alone and PC-based DVRs can be integrated with central management software, enabling interoperability with other hybrid DVRs and cameras.
Currently, hybrid DVRs can support 1.3-, 2- and 5-megapixel cameras. Available channel numbers range widely from 4 to 64, with different analog and network camera combinations. Users can choose different combinations according to their specific needs, said Chen at GeoVision.
For higher quality images, BNC connectors are switching to HDMI, said Wang. Resolution for display can now easily reach D1 and HD, with transmission rates at 25/30 fps and 15 fps per channel, respectly, said Chen at DynaColor.
To ensure high image quality, transmission must also be reliable to avoid picture noise or loss of video signals. By using PCIe transmission can optimize signal connection, and dual streaming enables remote monitoring and control by mobile devices, said Wang. Two Ethernet ports further make the sysem more expendable and flexible, said Sara Lin, Business Development Director at Instek Digital.
High-resolution images also mean large files for storage devices. In order to effectively support megapixel cameras, storage must be scalable and well-protected in case of system failure. Most hybrid DVRs' storage can be upgraded to as many as seven or eight drives and with RAID redundancy.
Although stand-alone hybrid DVRs cannot provide a diverse range of video analytics due to high cost, basic features are still available. Features such as video search in a particular area or motion detection can be added. Tracking can also be added in the future, said Chang.
Currently, hybrid DVRs that can support H.264 compression, HD resolution, and work stably and reliably are most in demand.
At the moment, hybrid DVRs that support network cameras with MPEG-4 compression still sell better than H.264. "This is because the use of H.264 compression in hybrid DVRs just started not too long ago. Rapid growth in sales can be expected from the second quarter in 2009," said Lin.
Another reason that sales of H.264 hybrid DVRs still come up short is market acceptance, said Kun Pin Chen, Product Manager at Lanner Electronics. Whenever a new technology arises, educationand training for system integrators and users are required for wider market acceptance. However, H.264 is gradually becoming maintream for hybrid DVRs and will replace most MPEG-4 systems eventually, said Lee.
Hybrid DVRs also need to be able to decompress megapixel images for display on LCDs, said Lee. If the system uses megapixel cameras with displays only supporting D1 resolution, users would not be able to enjoy the advantage of megapixel cameras, said Lee.
Large or governmental installations are usually more conservative and more concerned with stability. Mid-scale installations favor features and system stability. For smaller installations, users would often prefer the system to be multifunctional, said Lin.
Reliable storage using RAID redundancy can back up data in case one of the drives fails to function. Systems with gigabit bandwidth ensure noninterrupted transmission, said Wang.
Challenges in developing hybrid DVRs include making the system's interface more user-friendly, ability to integrate with a large number of network cameras of different makes and possibility of more features of video analytics.
"Whether an interface is user-friendly or not is hard to promote as a persuasive selling point because there's no clear definition," said Lin.
Another big challenge for hybrid DVRs is the lack of standard in network cameras, said Chan. Unlike analog cameras where one only needs to be concerned with NTSC or PAL, different manufacturers' network cameras have different audio/video compression standards, transmission protocols and firewall configurations. To be compatible with a new camera model or brand means a huge R&D investment, Chan said. Newly established industry bodies might help to facilitate the move toward IP, said Chang.
Users also need to have a reliable IP network. If an installation is not based on a reliable IP backbone, hybrid DVRs would not be able to stably monitor and record video, said Chan.
The adoption of hybrid DVRs is slow because some system integrators are still facing challenges with IP infrastructure, Lin said. Time and training are required to develop system integrators' and installers' IP know-how. Users also need to be informed of the benefits of migrating to IP-based systems.
For surveillance systems going IP, hybrid DVRs are necessary for the transition. They ensure that users would not lose their initial investments in analog systems and can opt for network cameras when needed, said Chan. Hybrid DVRs and NVRs serve different purposes and target different markets; therefore, sales of NVRs should not affect sales of hybrid DVRs. With flexible combinations of analog and network cameras, the system can even be set to connect to network cameras on all channels, functioning like a NVR, said Chan.
Manufacturers are looking for ways to better improve stand-alone hybrid DVRs' features and functions. It should be compatible with more brands of network cameras. Users are also observing how they could benefit from hybrid DVRs and their compatibility with different systems, said Lee. Storage will be more scalable. Adopting network-attached storage is to be expected in the future, said Chen at Lanner Electronics.
For PC-based hybrid DVRs, more powerful video analytic features will be developed to cater to user needs, said Chen at GeoVision. Manufacturers of stand-alone hybrid DVRs will continue to improve on CPU and DSP in order to enable more diverse video analytics to be incorporated, said Chen at DynaColor.